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Ocelot

Leopardus pardalis

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About the Ocelot

conservation status: least concern

Geographic Range:

range map

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Leopardus
Species: pardalis

These predatory cats have striking coats of fur marked with both black spots and rosettes. They're primarily nocturnal, solitary animals. They hunt during the day and are very secretive, keeping to areas of dense brush or other heavy cover.

Ocelot Facts

Appearance:
An ocelot’s fur is short and marked with both black spots and rosettes. Their base color ranges from grayish to reddish brown. Their stomachs tend to be lighter or white in color. Two black lines run down the length of both sides of their face and the tail is marked with black bands.

Size:
Length: 5.8 to 8.7 feet
Weight: Males average 25 pounds, females average 20 pounds

Diet:
Ocelots are carnivores and prey on small birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. They occasionally tackle larger prey such as small deer, armadillos, monkeys and peccaries. 

Reproduction:
Ocelots breed year round but especially from September to November. After a gestation period ranging from 70 to 80 days, females give birth to one to three young. Females take care of the young alone and sexual maturity is reached around 15 months (for males) to 18 months (for females). Young develop slowly; they open their eyes after two weeks, are weaned over 3-9 months and don’t leave their mother until almost two years old. 

Behavior:
Ocelots are generally solitary, nocturnal animals. If forced to hunt during the day, they keep to areas of dense underbrush, climbing down trees headfirst to keep their eyes on the surrounding area. Their spots help break up their body outline and resemble the pattern that sunlight makes on the ground through the forest's canopy. A male ocelot's territory overlaps several adjacent female territories. They use scent marks to mark the borders of their territories. 

Habitat/Range:
They are found throughout countries in Central America and South America. Formerly found in much of southern US, they’re now confined to southern Texas and occasionally Arizona. They can adapt in many habitats, but they need dense cover for hunting. 

Median Life Expectancy:
Roughly 10 years

Role in their habitat:
Although they are predators, ocelots may be harassed by groups of animals such as monkeys or birds. Ocelots often share a habitat with larger cats like mountain lions and jaguars. Though each cat targets different prey, ocelots may be prey to the larger cats as well as other animals like large snakes and birds. 

Threats:
Ocelots are currently threatened by habitat loss and the illegal trade of pelts and cubs. Ocelots' fur makes them a target for hunters, and in many areas they are quite rare, including Texas, where they are endangered. There may be as few as 100 ocelots living in the US today.  

Fun Facts:

  • Most big cats remove feathers and fur as they eat their prey, but ocelots remove all feathers and fur before they start to eat. 
  • Each ocelot has a different coat pattern. Even the right and left side of an ocelot's coat patterns and colors are different. 
  • Unlike many cats, ocelots don't avoid water and can swim well.